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Nature and Structure

March 25, 2021 7pm

Play is an essential activity across the lifespan, for all people. Active outdoor play in and with nature has benefits for our physical and emotional well-being, and also helps us to strengthen our relationships with nature and the planet we call home. With increases in urbanization, concerns with safety, and changes in the climate and environmental conditions in the US and globally, people are spending more time indoors. Educators have responded with renewed focus and determination to support nature-based play and learning in the outdoors. In this session we will discuss the historic roots of 'nature play' in Froebel's kindergarten, and the contemporary movements that support nature play (Nature Based Learning Initiative; Louv, 2019). We will review the current research on the benefits of nature for health, wellness, and a connectedness to nature (Bratman et al, 2012; Cosco, Moore & Smith, 2014; Hughes, Richardson & Lumber, 2018; Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989; Schweighardt, 2015; Ulrich, 1993; Zylestra et al, 2014) and share ideas on how to design a built environment that works with nature to support the benefits of active outdoor play & learning using Universal Design principles to support children of all abilities. The session will cover an assessment tool for outdoor learning environments (POEMS: Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale, 2005/2014, DeBord, Hestenes, Moore, Cosco & McGinnis) and feature case studies of successful design features of outdoor play and learning environments for all ages & abilities. This interactive session will involve active participation and dialogue among participants.